Morris County Superior Court Judge Rejects Venue Change for Fatal DWI Accident Trial

Anyone who drivers a car, truck or motorcycle here in the Garden State has probably seen the aftermath of any number of traffic accidents throughout the course of a year. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, I and my staff of experienced trial lawyers know full well that a certain percentage of automobile and commercial trucking crashes involve possible drinking and driving charges. We also know that a DWI or DUI-related traffic accident can complicate a drunk driving case, especially when there are injuries or deaths involved.

Almost more so than property damage, serious bodily injury or a fatality brought on by an alcohol or drug-related roadway collision can motivate a prosecutor’s office to press hard for a conviction. Whether the victim of an injury or fatal car crash is another driver, a vehicle occupant or a pedestrian, the seriousness of the incident will usually make for a more difficult defense. This is why, in such serious cases, it is highly recommended that the accused motorist consult with a qualified legal professional, if only to better understand his or her rights and options going forward.

Being charged with driving while intoxicated is no laughing matter, as many people who have been a defendant in a DWI case will likely attest. Consider the case of a DWI accident that occurred in Morris County almost a year ago, which is only just now making its way through the judicial process. According to news reports, the defendant in this particular case is accused of being drunk and maybe even impaired due illegal drugs when the car she was operating struck a pedestrian off to one side of the roadway. The defendant’s attorney had recently filed a motion in superior court to move the venue out of Morris County, however the judge denied the request.

Based on news articles, the deadly accident that precipitated the legal case against 32-year-old Vanessa Brown took place on May 5 of last year. Police reports indicate that Ms. Brown was traveling along a stretch of Ridgedale Ave. a little before 2pm when for some reason she lost control of her vehicle, which then left the roadway and stuck 49-year-old Ralph Politi, Jr., outside of his place of business in East Hanover.

Police stated that the victim was loading items into his pickup truck at the time of the collision and that Brown, as resident of Parsippany, NJ, was likely under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when she drove off the street and hit the man. Following the crash, a Morris County grand jury indicted Ms. Brown on charges of aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

In the defense’s latest move, Brown’s attorney motioned to have the trial moved outside of Morris County because in its opinion it would be “impossible” to pick an impartial jury due to more than a dozen newspaper articles and thousands of “likes” for a Facebook page entitled “Max Sentence for Vanessa Brown.”

In response, the Morris County assistant prosecutor stated that the Facebook page may be more “incendiary” than the defense would like; however, from the state’s point of view, the amount of publicity to date has not approached the “saturation point.” A victim’s rights advocate speaking on behalf of Mr. Politi’s family also urged the court to keep the case in Morris County, if only because moving the venue would cost the grieving family members an additional emotional toll.

In the end, the Judge rejected the motion, stating that even if there were 3,000 people who had seen the Facebook page, in the judge’s opinion that figure doesn’t come close to the amount of publicity needed for a venue change, especially in a county with 500,000 residents.

Judge refuses to move trial in alleged drunk-driving death out of Morris County, NJ.com, March 13, 2013